dyeing a nylon/lycra swimsuit
I have a swimming suit that is white and unlined, and thus transparent in the worst places. The suit fits very well, and I'd like to dye it a dark color (black or dark blue) so that I can wear it.
The fabric is 80% nylon, 20% spandex. Will an acid dye work? What brand do you suggest? Do you recommend stove top or washing machine? It seems wasteful to use the washing machine for such a small amount of fabric.
The problem with dyeing nylon/spandex is that acid dye is a hot water dye, ideally used on nylon at around 185°F, while spandex is apt to lose its shape at anything above the temperature indicated on the care label, typically 105°F. (While acid dye is used industrially at 160°F to dye spandex, these high temperatures are probably suitable only to spandex fibers that have not yet been made into garments.) You have two choices: use an acid dye at 105°F, accepting that it will not be nearly as washfast as acid dye that has been applied at a higher temperature—you could reapply dye when it is needed again—or use fabric paint, instead of dye.
Fabric paint is a combination of a colored pigment and a binder that glues it to the fiber. There are many different types and textures available. For your swimming suit, I would recommend against any 'dimensional' paint that you can easily feel on the fabric. Crafts stores commonly carry slick paint, puffy paint, or other textured paints; I do not recommend these. A softer, thinner fabric paint that does not change the 'feel' of the fabric, or even a fabric paint that spreads on the fabric like dye, would be more suitable. Fabric paint may wear off of the nylon somewhat faster than it would wear off of a natural fiber, and it, like dye, might be repelled by surface fabric finishes, but it's definitely worth a try.
Lumiere is a good brand of fabric paint that comes in many different metallic and pearlescent colors. This would be nice by itself or as an accent applied after other, darker colors. Jacquard Textile Colors and PRO Chemical & Dye's PROfab Textile paints are good, as are SetaColor and SetaSilk. Jacquard's Dye-na-flow is a fabric paint that looks a lot like a dye, as it flows freely on the fabric like dye before drying and being set. Many fabric paints have instructions saying to heat-set, but often just holding the garment unwashed for a month after painting will substitute for the heat-setting step. Dharma Pigment "dyes" are a fabric paint which is used for tie-dyeing synthetic fibers. (See the notes on their page.)
You can also buy easily dyeable white cotton/lycra swimsuits from Dharma Trading Company for about $13, if you want to start over from scratch.
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Posted: Tuesday - January 30, 2007 at 09:08 AM